If you’ve read even a few of these LITL posts, you’ve recognized the recurring community theme. I’m big on support groups, group activities, and get-togethers of every ilk. As I described in this previous post, my support group isn’t satisfied with our once-a-month schedule. We have our own informal gatherings – always over a repast – whenever we can.
Somehow, over the years, I’ve been anointed the social director of the group. My friends have referred to me, hopefully in the best possible way, as their Julie, as in Julie McCoy from the long past and rarely lamented TV sitcom, “The Love Boat”. I’ve been called worse things. After all, community building was Julie’s forte and I’m deluded enough to believe it’s mine as well.
Along with that title comes the responsibility for planning our frequent huddles. While the events themselves are almost always enjoyable, the planning can sometimes be a pain in the neck. (Sometimes the pain hits a little lower on the anatomy.) The biggest huddle hurdle is finding a place that’s “accessible”. Ay, there’s the rub!
You see, the definition of accessible differs between the disabled population and the general public. For example, we wanted to meet this week in a city where we hadn’t previously had a gathering. We were flying blind in unknown territory, which had to be scouted out. It doesn’t help that our group has a very specific and unique set of criteria:
- Must have food, good food.
- Must be accessible, truly accessible.
- No wait service to hover over us since we tend to linger for hours.
- Room to move around; our equipment takes up serious acreage.
- Cheap. MS is expensive enough without $15 sandwiches and $7 coffee.
Some of these are easily discernible from web sites. Some not so much. The big one is accessibility. So I called a few places and asked a simple question, the answer to which is anything but, to wit: “Is your establishment accessible?” Turns out that’s a useless question because most people don’t understand it.
I qualified my question, “Is your establishment accessible to people in wheelchairs?” That seemed pretty clear to me. The response I got in one case was, “Oh yes. There’s just one step to get up to the door.”
Really? Just one step?
She might as well have said, “Sure. If you can swim across the moat filled with crocodiles and piranha, climb the rope ladder, and leap over the flaming pit of death, it’s a piece of cake.” In other words, if you can get in by any method (including tripping, shoving, or trebuchet) it’s accessible. By this person’s definition, the Grand Canyon and Mt. Everest are accessible.
Most people don’t get it. That makes my job of finding a suitable venue for meeting harder. Fortunately, we have a very understanding group… unless any of them are on steroids. Then all bets are off. When things go wrong, it puts a damper on our fun but, worse, it hurts. There’s nothing fun about being treated as second class citizens.
This gives us a mission beyond our typical consumption of mass quantities. It’s in our (and everyone’s) best interest to have an educated populace, especially business owners. People need to understand that a single step is a deal-breaker when it comes to accessibility. Here are a couple of places where you, too, can contribute to the service by letting people know what’s accessible and what isn’t:
- AXS Map – Web site for rating businesses by accessibility.
- AbleRoad – An iOS and Android app to serve the same purpose.
These tools are potentially great, but they’re useless without content. That’s where all of us come in. It’s our job to educate the ignorant masses. Of course, we’ll be kind and professional as we go about this mission. We’ll gently inform people of our needs and obstacles and calmly seek rectification of any problems.
Unless we’re on a steroids kick. Then all bets are off.